Dorothy's story


Dorothy lives in West Lothian. Peter, OPAL's Communications & Systems Support Officer, paid her a visit for a cuppa and a chat about her life, retirement, and participation in OPAL Cyrenians groups. 

 I’m nearly 93, and I've been living in this house since 1974, when I first came to Scotland. 

I was born and brought up in Birmingham, on a very nice council estate, but Scotland's very much my home. 

In my working life I was a social worker at various levels.  I ended up at the Scottish Office (as it then was, before devolution).  In that role I had the opportunity to see a lot of Scotland and I spent quite a lot of time in the Outer Hebrides.  After over 20 years of living and working in London before that, it was really rather nice. 

I retired fairly early because Mrs Thatcher was having a bit of a purge of the civil service. We were offered early retirement because we were overstaffed, so I happily took it. I'd worked all my life and I decided it would be nice to have more than a fortnight off at a time!

So I've been retired for quite a long time. I’ve had a pretty active and very satisfying life.  I was very happily married and we had some lovely happy years together.  

I think the big change since retiring has been the onset of old age. My husband died ten years ago.

Since then, old age has brought with it physical infirmities, and it's now impossible for me to behave as I used to. I'm not independent in my goings-out and comings-in. Also, I have no family at all, so while I'm blessed with my neighbours - they're wonderful and if you've got to be living on your own this is a lovely village to live in - but one does miss the degree of social involvement that one used to have.

This is where Cyrenians come in! 

Sylvia, the OPAL Coordinator, invited me to go to one of the groups in Linlithgow, and she tempted me with the fact that there was going to be a speaker on local history, of which I'm very interested.  I went along and was impressed, so I go every Thursday afternoon to Linlithgow.   

The one thing that I can really rely on is that whatever else happens on a Thursday, I am going to laugh at the group.  And when you do live on your own you don't get a lot of opportunities for laughing.  And it's just a nice atmosphere, a bit of a social get-together. 

I'd been going to the Linlithgow group for a little while.  Usually we all sit at a long table, but a couple of months ago, Sandra decided to have a change, so instead of one large table she had us sitting at three separate smaller tables.  I was sitting with four other ladies.  I didn't know any of them, but the lady sitting next to me mentioned that she came from Birmingham.  It turned out she went to the same infants and junior school as I did!.  She was 15 years younger than me, but we knew the same teachers! I'd never have had the chance to meet her other than at a Cyrenians group, so that was just lovely. 

I’ve also been attending an online group. I had had a couple of years’ experience of using a computer before my sight went. I suddenly couldn't see what I was doing and I was quite lost for a while. 

I do still have a bit of sight but it's only peripheral vision.  But I now have enough experience to make the best of it.

I'm very dependent on technology. I do all my shopping online, I couldn't manage without it. I'm of the generation that still think it's all done by magic...little men in green hats sitting in there somewhere! Zoom is a new experience but it's working pretty well.

I enjoy the online OPAL book club that I attend. My visual impairment isn't too much of a problem for joining the group because I have adaptations on my computer, and OPAL are there to help if I get lost. For example, now I can enlarge text, and I have a keyboard highlighted with coloured stickers. OPAL send me the link for meetings, so all I have to do is click on it and there I am in the midst of the group.

I can speak very highly of the online group! There's about half a dozen of us, which is a nice number for the group.  I like the way it's organised because it's not one of those groups where you all have to read the same book and then discuss it.  In this group we just talk about the books we've read and recommend them to one another.  It's been another good way to have a bit of relief to loneliness. It's not quite like sitting in a room with other people but it's the next best thing! 

People my age do have difficulties finding these opportunities, unless they've got very close and numerous family members. 

One of the accompaniments of old age is loneliness, but I think Cyrenians have taken this on board and are catering very well for it. 

[Note: This is a retelling of Dorothy's story. Some parts of the interview have been edited]